Friday, October 28, 2011

Prime Minister's Questions Still Great At 50

By Adam Kelly
TORBAY, England – Prime Minister’s Questions turns 50 this week.
The most recognized and popular session of parliament in the world celebrates its birthday with David Cameron at the dispatch box, half a century after Harold MacMillan first spoke at regular sessions.
Better known as PMQs and broadcast across the world and on the internet, every Wednesday the Prime Minister answers questions from MPs on anything they wish.
But PMQs has become important and special for the battles and duals between the man in power and the leader of the opposition, across the table, dispatch box to dispatch box as MPs on both sides of the house heckle and cheer, while the poor speaker tries to maintain some form of order.
In other countries, such as the United States, many complain that PMQs is pointless, half an hour a week for each side to try and ‘win’ something they cannot see. But PMQs is a British institution, an event and a place for the issues of the week to be discussed and debated, and to get some idea of which party is doing best.
In 1961, a committee of MPs recommended that the Prime Minister take questions in a formal setting at a set time each week. Before this, PMQs were treated just as any other minister in the government and asked whenever he or she appeared.
However, the committee found that set sessions worked better so PMQs was born, at first as two 15-minute sessions on Tuesday and Thursday.
This practice remained until former Prime Minister Tony Blair created one 30-minute session as an alternative in the late 1990s.
When PMQs began it was like any other question time, a place for backbenchers to ask questions and get responses,
Yet over time it formed into the thing it is today: a powerful, hard-hitting session where one side wins and the other doesn’t.
Although some hate it, calling the heckling and cheering child-like and insisting MPs should behave better, I love PMQs and I hope the majority of the public agrees.
Countries such as the United States have no formal way of questioning the president in Congress —and it never happens. Presidents are questioned, if at all, mostly by reporters.
When PMQs began, newspapers reported on it, but then radio joined in and after that, television began showing the sessions.
PMQs will stand forever as an example of British democracy and a transparent Parliament.
It is a great thing – and if it ever disappeared I would personally knock on the Prime Minister’s door and ask for serious answers to my questions.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Moving Toward A More Unified World

By Zak Morgan
Junior Reporter
WEST HARTFORD, Connecticut, U.S.A. – There are approximately 7 billion people living on this planet today.
Eighty percent of the population lives on less than $10 a day. Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names. Water problems affect half of humanity and more than a dozen countries are under the control of a dictator.
Currently, the United States alone has approximately 5,000 nuclear warheads. This is enough to destroy the world four times over.
The question that arises is: where did we go wrong?
In an ideal world, we must strive towards the goal of a world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.
As humans, it is in our nature to dislike differences.
The reality is that our species is comprised of millions of different ethnicities, religions, backgrounds, tribes and countries. The only problem we as humans have faced over the last several thousand years has been accepting that fact.
One essential task the human race must accomplish is bonding together as a world community.
In the movie Independence Day, mankind joins together to fight off the hostile alien invaders. In the novel War of the Worlds, the human race allies to fight off the imperialist Martian attackers to protect the future of mankind. In the movie Signs, the world teams up to find a strategy for fighting the alien invaders.
Is it possible for humankind to unite without facing an alien attack?
In the current world, I do not even believe an alien attack would do the job. In a world of so much difference, we must develop acceptance for one another. Only through acceptance can we move towards a global community.
Martin Luther King wrote, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
In today’s world, fighting violence with violence has proven itself to be a largely ineffective method of victory. Hate like this will only increase if we as a nation continue to hate the terrorists groups of the Middle East. We must learn to understand each other, and through this understanding, negotiations and progress can be made.
During the Enlightenment, an intellectual movement that swept through Europe during the 18th century, philosophers introduced the idea of a Utopia, a perfect society in which all prosper. While this may seem to be an impossible goal, I believe these philosophers were moving us in the right direction.
What happened to these ideas of the past? It seems that they have passed like wind in the meadow, leaving us in a shadow of violence. The human race must begin a new revolution, which is the evolution of the mind. And if we accomplish this, it will truly be, in the words of Winston Churchill, “our finest hour.”
During World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke of four freedoms: The freedom of speech and expression, the freedom for every person to worship God in his own way, the freedom from want, and the freedom from fear. Achieving this would be more realistic than creating a Utopia, but before it can be done, we as a species must organize and end our conflicts.
The time has come to drop the past, to forgive those that have done you wrong.
A major problem in today’s world is the constant lust for revenge – Muslims who oppose the United States, blaming its soldiers for the death of a family member, Jews in Israel hating Muslims for their suicide bombings.
This hatred is not only found in the Middle East. Most inner-city killings are acts of revenge.
The youth of the world are being taught to immediately dislike certain cultures. When does it all end?
In Mark Twain’s novel The Adventures of Huck Finn, Huck encounters a family feud that has been going on for generations. Neither family knows how or when it started, and the only result of the feud is death – this is our world today.
No one is sure what began this violence, and the death toll continues to rise. It’s time to drop our petty differences and no longer call ourselves Americans, Christians, Jews, or Muslims, but humans.
The reality of the world is that people need to start helping one another. We need to start making some changes.
Let’s change the way we eat, let’s change the way we live, and let’s change the way we treat each other.
Tupac Shakur sang, “The old way wasn’t working and it’s on us to do what we’ve got to do to survive.
While many Americans enjoy lives of luxury compared to most of the world, there are people all over, including in our community, who are facing very different situations.
When we go to vote, we look at a candidate’s foreign policies, and how liberal or conservative their stance is on health reform. Meanwhile, there are places where people care about food, about water, and about housing.
We can no longer stand for a system that creates such a high separation of classes. So as the Unitarian Universalist prayer says, let us open our eyes to see what is beautiful, let us open our minds to learn what is true, and let us open our hearts to love one another.
And in times of despair, let us remember that all throughout history, the ways of truth and love have always won.
As Gandhi said, “There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it – always.”

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Will Libya Be Better Off With Qaddafi Dead?

By Narine Daneghyan
YEREVAN, Armenia – We don’t yet know what will happen to Libya following the death of former dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
One thing is certain: Qaddafi was no saint.
Qaddafi clearly made many wrong steps during his 42 years as a dictator. But the problems run deeper than we can imagine.
It’s not just Qaddafi's fault that the revolution in Libya happened. It's not only his fault that so many people were killed.
Let's admit that many sides were guilty for all that happened.
Qaddafi was one of the few secular leaders in the Arab world. Because he did not believe in Islamic fundamentalism, Libyan women were able to go to school, join the army and otherwise participate fully in society.
Though this is a positive point on Qaddafi's side, I don't want to make him into a saint, merely point out that he wasn’t all bad.
So I can't tell right know what will happen in Libya with Qaddafi dead.
After so many years, nobody can know for sure if the country will be better off or not.

Qaddafi Doesn't Deserve A Quick Death

By Evangeline Han
MELAKA, Malaysia – I first read the news of former Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi’s capture and apparent death on Twitter.
At this point, though, we can’t be 100 percent sure that he is dead.
If his death is confirmed, no doubt there will be much rejoicing.
While I don’t believe that we should feel glee when someone, no matter how evil, has died, it’s impossible not to think about the Libyans and how much they have suffered under the Qaddafi regime.
If Qadafi is dead, his death would be a relief for his country.
While he and his family lived lavish lifestyles, the Libyan people suffered. Qaddafi sucked the livelihood and opportunities from his people.
Still, I don’t want to see Qaddafi dead, at least not now.
He should face justice. If he is alive, and I hope he is, he needs to be brought to court. All the injustice and crimes he committed need to be dug out and told to the world.
Qaddafi needs to have his day in court and to pay for his crimes.
Death now is too easy an escape route for him. Qaddafi doesn’t deserve a quick and easy death from gunshots in battle.
The Libyan people deserve justice and they would be able to get it if Qaddafi goes on trial.

Mixed Mood In Uganda Over Qaddafi's Death

By Bwette Daniel Gilbert
KAMPALA, Uganda -- Word is going around that the longest serving leader from Africa, Colonel Muammar Qaddafi of Libya, died in a gun battle today.
Qaddafi Mosque in KampalaPhoto: Michal Vogt
Creative Commons License
The spokesman for the Libyan National Transitional Council, Abdullah Berrassali, told reporters today that Qaddafi was killed after a gunfight between his supporters and fighters loyal to the new government.
In Uganda, the mood is mixed.
Qaddafi was considered an influential leader here and made quite a number of investments for Libya in Uganda, including the Victoria Hotel. He also owned shares in Uganda Telecom Limited, Toro Kingdom, Tropical Bank and more.
There are fears that Qaddafi’s death might affect the financial stability of these companies as well as the Ugandan economy as a whole. But only time will tell how Qaddafi’s death impacts Uganda’s economy.
Qaddafi has been close to the country’s Muslim population, too, even building one of the biggest mosques at Old Kampala. It is named for him: Qaddafi Mosque.
A spokesman for the Uganda media center said it is too early to confirm whether or not the government here will comment on Qaddafi’s demise.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Phantom At 25: Music Of The Night Lives On

By Emily Couch
Junior Reporter
LONDON, England – The 25th anniversary return of the phenomenal best-selling musical Phantom of the Opera had to be one of the most anticipated theatrical events in the last decade – and I was there.
In case you’ve missed it, the Phantom of the Opera is the story of a mysterious masked man in the depths of the Paris Opera House who falls in love with a beautiful young soprano called Christine Daae. 
The masked man is known by all as the “Opera Ghost” and is the unseen master of all the goes on under the roof of the Opera Populaire and thus the bane of the lives of the new managers and prima donna, Carlotta Giudicelli. 
Trouble starts when Christine’s childhood sweetheart, Raoul Vicomte de Chagny turns up on the doorstep and the two men engage in an epic battle to win her love.  Who does Christine choose?  I’ll leave that for you to guess.
Phantom had its debut in Her Majesties’ theatre in London’s West End in 1986 when it forged an unbreakable, intangible, magical bond with the audience that not even the composer could explain.
The Music of the Night has been enchanting audiences ever since.
For an avid “Phan” – the rather corny name ascribed to all those who worship at the shrine of Phantom – the event was rather like being the proverbial kid in a candy shop.
You end up staring around you in absolute awe not knowing whether to dig into the scrumptiously stellar cast or the luxurious dark-chocolate-y set and costume design.  So you end up gorging yourself on both.
Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess led the cast as the Phantom and Christine. The dynamic duo had recently starred together in Love Never Dies, the Phantom sequel, as their respective roles so seeing them together in the original was a real treat. 
They have an undeniable chemistry on stage which created an almost tangible heat, which added to the already tropical climate of the Royal Albert Hall.
Karimloo’s voice has to be heard to be believed. It has a remarkable strength and power which makes it perfect for the role of the imposing and omnipotent Phantom.
Sierra was a true angel of music. For me, she is Christine Daae personified. I fell in love with her in Love Never Dies, so seeing her perform in the original was a dream.
Her voice soared and dived through the music with her beautiful coloratura shining through.  The operatic training she underwent for her recent Broadway stint in Master Class helped her voice to sound even more perfect for the young ingénue of the Paris Opera!
Her finest moment was without a doubt her breathtaking rendition of “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again.”
What I would give to be able to sing like her!  It is abundantly clear why Andrew Lloyd Webber chose her specifically for first Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular then Love Never Dies and now Phantom 25th.
These celebrations firmly established her as a star of the West End as well as Broadway.
As for the chorus, well, they were the cream of the West End. Stars included Sofia Escobar, Robyn North, Simon Bailey and Earl Carpenter, among many talented voices.
“Drink it in, drink it up, ’til you drown in the lights in the sound…” the line from Masquerade is an apt way to describe Phantom’s phenomenal set and costume.  The creative team did an admirable job of recreating the set in the Albert Hall.
If one were to be picky, the signature chandelier crash was missed but the fireworks did compensate somewhat.
Jon Driscoll, who seems to have the monopoly on the projections of West End shows, did a great job of transferring Maria Bjornson’s set design onto a screen.
Fittingly, the costumes were all done to Maria Bjornson’s beautiful designs. I’m sure she would have been proud to see her masterpieces celebrate their 25th year.
The cherry on top of the afternoon was without a doubt the finale and guest appearances.
Despite tears streaming down my face through out, I don’t think it was possible for me to enjoy it more than I did.  I am not the easily “gob-smacked” sort but I must say my jaw did drop a few inches when Lord Lloyd Webber made his appearance.
I found out that, yes, he really does breathe the same air as we mere audience members.
Seeing him join Cameron Mackintosh, Gillian Lynne and Charles Hart on stage was surreal. I could not believe it when Sarah Brightman came center stage (adoringly introduced as “My Angel of Music” by Webber) and sang “Phantom of the Opera” with John Owen Jones, Colm Wilkinson, Anthony Warlow and Peter Jobak.
I wished my ears and eyes could record that truly beautiful moment!
All in all, Phantom 25 was an unforgettable experience. I want to say a massive thank you to Andrew Lloyd Webber for creating such a magnum opus of musical theatre.
I think we can safely say that contrary to the Phantom’s line in the final lair, the Music of the Night is not over, it is only just beginning.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Citizens Of Bangladesh Deserve Better

By Mehran Shamit
TORONTO, Canada – A recent visit back to Bangladesh after almost five years left me shocked by the huge changes my country had been through.
Over the last five years, many things did develop, but for ordinary Bangladeshis, life is worse than before.
In a country of more than 164 million, about 80 percent of the population is still in poverty. Corrupt governments holding power fail to implement policies that adequately help and support people to improve their situations.
Instead, the current government supports and encourages consumerism and capitalist ideals by allowing international companies to use Bangladeshi workers, including children, as cheap labour.
There is a tremendous gap between the rich and poor that’s growing as a result.
The government neglected Bangladeshis in the past and this time they denied the existence of 14 million Bangladeshis living in the country.
According to the United Nations Population Fund, Bangladesh had an estimated population of 164.4 million in 2010. But in its 2011 census, the government claimed to have about 150 million, which really means that it would rather hide the existence of some of the population rather than announce a number that more decently matches the international figure.
Dhaka, the capital city, is being more developed than any other city in Bangladesh and it’s attracting more people to come from smaller cities and rural areas, making the city overpopulated.
Dhaka has more opportunities and jobs and it also has English medium schools and better doctors and hospitals.  It’s the main city where international companies and organizations and big Bangladeshi businesses and industries are all located.
Nearly all private universities in Bangladesh are also based in Dhaka, causing more people to come and live there.
United States State Department map
Dhaka is so crowded that it’s come to a point where there is barely any space for a person to walk freely.
Driving somewhere 10 minutes away takes at least an hour because of the amount of traffic. There are also lots of power outages and it’s horrible because of the extremely hot weather.
Bangladesh is becoming very unsafe for people. Everyday more and more people are being killed and the government is doing very little to bring justice.
In a recent incident, a three-year-old girl named Nuha was shot and killed by robbers when she was traveling with her parents to Cox’s Bazar from Dhaka. A gang stopped their car at night near Khutkhali in Cox’s Bazar, but when their car started driving away, they fired from the back and a bullet struck Nuha’s head, killing her.
If the government fails to provide security in one of Bangladesh’s most famous and expensive tourist spots, then what kind of security do ordinary Bangladeshis have?
Instead of dealing with issues like these, the government is too busy encouraging police brutality and finding ways to stop opposition political parties from protesting their failures.
When the main opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), and its allies called for a peaceful 48-hour general strike or hartal across the country, the police purposely stopped their protests, causing many clashes.
The police brutally attacked BNP’s Chief Whip Zainul Abdin Farooque, who is also a member of parliament. They attacked him with batons, injuring him and cracking his head. Many other opposition MPs were also attacked.
When MPs are attacked this way by police, the security of ordinary Bangladeshis come into question and it shows the lack of law and order implemented by the government.
The police are government workers and they are the real examples of how brutal and unfit the government is to run the country.
In another recent incident, Supreme Court lawyer MU Ahmed was arrested and suffered a heart attack in police custody after he was tortured and died 16 days later.  I can only imagine what sort of torture a person has to face to have a heart attack.
If this is how a Supreme Court lawyer is treated, then how are the lives of ordinary Bangladeshis safe in the hands of the police?
Even with a cruel and immoral government like this, Bangladeshis have the strength to never stop hoping for a better and more prosperous Bangladesh.
I really hope one day that does become the reality for my country.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Refn Skids To All The Right Spots In 'Drive'

By Vipasha Shaikh
Junior Reporter
TORONTO, Ontario, Canada – Watching Drive makes you almost feel like you’re in the ‘80s again. In a way.
While the premise of this movie revolves around heists and car chases, make no mistake: Drive is not a Fast & Furious 6. In fact, it doesn’t even come close.
Contemporary action movies have a tendency to rely too much on special effects and hot girls, but Drive completely steers clear of anything resembling an action movie of today’s time.
To quickly recap, Drive is a movie about an anti-hero who we come to know as ‘The Driver.’ He’s played by Ryan Gosling, and he moonlights as a driver for heists at night, while working as a stunt car driver during the day.
His life is hum-drum and still until he meets his new apartment neighbor, Irene, played by Carey Mulligan. She’s a single mother whose husband is in prison.
Her life is at risk because her husband owes a bunch of people he knew from prison, and the Driver gets involved. Chaos ensues. This plot is pretty typical of an action flick, but the story is handled in a completely different way by director Nicholas Winding Refn.
Refn does this by eschewing the aesthetic of today’s films by making Drive be multiple things all at once. At its core, it can be seen as a love story, and you could argue that the film is almost a tragic Rhett and Scarlett (Gone With the Wind) tale of missed chances.
Yet at the same time, this movie could also been be seen as a homage to movies of the past.
There are splashes of The Godfather in here, and there’s even a point in time when it feels like a superhero movie. Not to mention when the movie gets violent, it does so in a more beautiful and raw way than expected, almost reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino and his bloody action sequences.
Perhaps I’m digging a little bit too deep, but it’s hard not to.
There’s this beautiful scene in the movie, when for two minutes,  Gosling’s anti-hero, the Driver, morphs into a superhero and his romantic love interest, Irene becomes something of a damsel in distress.
For those two minutes, in that space of time, we think of the Driver as something of a good guy, somebody who genuinely cares about this one woman and wants to do everything he can to protect her.
Either way, this movie is constructed in almost contradictory fashion, with its elements being both simultaneously subtle and powerful.
But despite its art-house roots, Drive is deserving of a mainstream audience, because in a strange, twisted way, it has mass appeal.
When I saw the movie, I had taken my parents with me, and I was sincerely surprised by their reaction. My parents, who are hardcore Die Hard-action-movie fans, ended up saying over and over again just how amazing the movie was, and how its muted violence and dialogue created an atmosphere that made it enthralling.
They referenced the amazing performances, saying Mulligan and Gosling were ridiculously good. And they kept on going on and on. They were in love with it.
I hope my parents’ reaction isn’t just an anomaly. I don’t think it is, because the people who live in this era are probably going to end up getting tired of movies that spoonfeed them the storylines.
The thing that makes Drive one of the most engaging movies I’ve ever seen is just how effective its editing is.
Scenes are cut in strange places in order to keep you guessing at what’s going to happen next. Foreshadowing is heavy and subtle at the same time – there’s enough information for you to fathom what might be coming next, but you never quite get it until you see it all unfold.
And with that, I leave you all with one piece of advice – go see Drive. You probably won’t regret it.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Demonstrators: Loosen Military Grip In Egypt

By Yasser Alaa
ALEXANDRIA, Egypt -- Protests this weekend called for the resignation of the head of Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi. Demonstrators said the military is not doing enough to support the revolution's demands for democracy and human rights.
These are photographs of the demonstration in Alexandria.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Shazam, Batman! YJI Really Is The Best

Batman supports Youth Journalism International -- 
even plugging us on the Batmobile itself!

Check out that sweet bumper magnet!

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Oscar? Maybe

By Adam Kelly
TORBAY, England – John le Carre's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy has been beautifully adapted by Tomas Alfredson and his team to provide a wonderful combination of excellent narrative, technique and entertainment.
Recently released in the United Kingdom but not yet showing in the United States, Tinker Tailor has already wowed critics and audience alike.
Based on the best-selling novel by veteran thriller writer John Le Carre, Tinker Tailor tells the tale of a retired MI6 or "Circus" agent tracking down a mole or double agent in the organization.
Called out of retirement, George Smiley, ironically named because of his lack of happiness, is asked by the minister for SIS Sir Percy to find the traitor.
Driven by an agent who is relatively low in the grand scheme of things, Smiley is told that there is a mole “right at the top of the circus."
Keeping the agent, played by Benedict Cumberbath, and recruiting a retired special branch officer to his team, Smiley sets out to find out who the mole is: one of the four main men in the circus, nicknamed Tinker, Tailor, Soldier and Spy.
Screenwriters Peter Straughan and Bridget O'Connor have done an excellent job of adapting le Carre's difficult and complicated story with twists and turns on every page.
Straughan and O'Connor have mastered the excitement and the atmosphere of the novel extremely well, particularly considering some have called the book the 20th century’s most un-adaptable novel.
But what really makes the narrative work most are, of course, the actors – a cast to drool over.
Gary Oldman, one of the most underappreciated actors to walk this Earth, stars as main man George Smiley. Oldman plays the character well, capturing much of what le Carre and Alec Guinness did in the 1979 BBC adaptation.
There are already rumors that Oldman will get an Oscar nomination.
Colin Firth is the other big man on the block, who adds to the excellence of Tinker Tailor by doing his best in a pretty Firth-ish role, but still good with elements of hidden homosexuality adapted into his character of Bill Haydon.
Tom Hardy, still cooling off from Inception last year, is also good in his role of Ricki Tarr.
John Hurt and Toby Jones both play their small roles well, but the real showoffs are Mark Strong and Benedict Cumberbatch, fresh from Warner Brothers film Sherlock Holmes and BBC TV series Sherlock, respectively.
Strong again steals the show with his deep emotional eyes, balancing anger and happiness perfectly while wrapped in a brand new person for the same old Strong.
Cumberbatch shines through with his old-looking blonde hair as the down-the-ranks-agent within the circus. Although not the most crucial part, every time Cumberbatch walked on screen, I found myself sitting forward with anticipation of him improving his last scene into an even better one.
True credit, too, must go to director Tomas Alfredson.
Best known for his own language Swedish film Let The Right One In, Alfredson breaks free of the mold of his horror tradition and creates something that brings together all the elements that make a good film and improves them.
Script, cast, set, atmosphere and more all tick the boxes extra strongly as Tinker Tailor settles into what it is.
Claiming the top spot for a second week in September since its release, the film will be best viewed not on DVD on a boring afternoon in a couple of months, but now, with the atmosphere and feel of the cinema, which contributes to this film much more than others released in the past few years.
Overall, Tinker Tailor is a film that made one big mistake: releasing it in September instead of just before the Academy’s year-end deadline.
For it is a film that would have received a full main course of Oscar nominations – including Best Actor, Supporting Actor, Screenplay, Director and Picture – had its timing been better. Perhaps it still will.
However, the one month memory of the Academy will probably prevent this.
Despite that, Tinker Tailor will be remembered for many years as a magnificent film.